I guess 2007 just wasn't quite done with me: My grandfather died last night.
Daddy Gene was 88 (89?). He had a stroke about six years ago that had rendered him mentally and physically fragile, but before that he was a vibrant world traveler. Shortly before his stroke, he and my grandmother had visited Portugal, the last European country he needed to check off his list. I'm so glad he made it there.
I never lived close to my grandparents. They were in their native Missouri when I was small, then they realized their dream of retiring to Florida. Despite the physical distance and fairly infrequent chances to visit, I always felt a bond with Daddy Gene. We shared the travel bug, and he loved languages and music, too, which are passions that made their way through the gene pool to me. We're not a traveling, multilingual, or musical family in general, so I always felt like those things gave us a special link. We both loved school, too. Daddy Gene and my grandmother, Mama Doris, were both big believers in education and continued their schooling throughout their lives. I remember Daddy Gene taking classes at the University of Tampa for many years once he and Mama Doris had settled there, and the two of them took a number of Elderhostel trips in their golden years.
Daddy Gene and Mama Doris were high school sweethearts and were married for over sixty years. They raised four boys and watched one die of leukemia. They shared hobbies but had their own interests, too. They were always respectful and polite to each other, at least in front of others. They made being married look easy, and fun.
Daddy Gene was not perfect. Who is? But he was full of qualities to admire and respect and love. The last time I saw him was over a year ago. The twins were two months old. My dad, John, and I took the kids down to Florida to meet their great-grandparents. Daddy Gene was living in a private home care setting, and Mama Doris was still in their Tampa home. I was so tired. I remember being so exhausted one night that I thought I was going to throw up. But that trip was worth it. Daddy Gene loved seeing the babies. "Maddie beautiful," he said, although he could barely speak. We have some great pictures from that trip, and good memories.
I miss you, Daddy Gene. You always used to say, "Wherever you go, there you are." Wherever you are now, I hope you find John. You two didn't get to know each other very well, and I think you'd like each other a lot.